Crusaders of the Lost Ark
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal
Directed by: Prakash Jha
Duration: 2 hrs 31 mins
Rating: * * 1/2
Director Prakash Jha’s tryst with making films on contemporary issue continues. After his home state Bihar, Jha has moved to the national scene with films like Rajneeti, Aarakshan and the naxalite story Chakravyuh. With Satyagraha, the trend continues on the same lines and this time the focus is on the anti-corruption movement.
The problem with mixing fiction with reality is that, our film makers still haven’t got the knack of making such films effectively, Madras Café recently being an exception. At best they skim the surface and make a point or two here and there but they don’t go for the jugular. Even if they make a film on anti-corruption (or science fiction) a romantic song and an item number is the order of the day, unfortunately.
Inspired by the Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal agitation, the story tries to integrate many other elements as well, like the real life incident of Satyandra Dubey who was killed by the mafia. Amitabh Bachchan plays a retired school principal who is also a man of principles. He is still involved with teaching kids in this village called Ambikapur and his gold medalist son is building bridges for the government while his daughter-in-law (Amrita Rao) is also involved with social service. The young man’s friend is Manav (Ajay Devgn) who is a big shot corporate guy who thinks that greed is good.
But not so after his friend gets run over by a truck and then the old man popularly known as Daddu decides to take on the corrupt system starting with the local collector. Corporate honcho gives up everything to fight for this crusade which also involves a lawyer and a policeman also joins hands later.
Their fight is against the local politician who also happens to be the home minister (Manoj Bajpayee) of the state. Daddu also has an ex-student who was a goon but now has become a youth leader (Arjun Rampal). Everybody on twitter and Facebook also joins the protests, nevermind if the story is set in a village. Kareena Kapoor Khan plays a television reporter who also joins the gang and a considerably dreary romance brews between her Manav.
Getting out of the hole that you dig can become very difficult when you mix real life events and fiction and the film flounders in the climax. While there are a few poignant points and moments on the face of it but if you dig deeper there are plenty of flaws in the screenplay.
The characterization to begin with – Manav is supposed to be this rich businessman who has built an empire and gives up everything but his motivation is not very clear. Just after interval, everyone shuns him not because he was involved in a genocide but there are allegations of corruption against him (not specified what exactly though). Were all the people so naïve to believe that he become a rich guy without greasing some palms?
So overall while the intention is good, the screenplay has plenty of flaws and at the end of it, you are no wiser than you were before even though Jha had an opportunity to nail it.
Amitabh Bachchan is first rate as the old man fighting for a cause. Ditto with Manoj Bajpayee who plays the scrupulous politician and he is cool as a cucumber. The chemistry between Ajay Devgn and Kareena Kapoor Khan though draws a big naught. So while Satyagraha is watchable because of the issues it touches, it is not exhilarating which it could have been.